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Islanders Wanted To Trade for Marleau in 1997 Draft?

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Credit: @SnipeCity420

Can you imagine Patrick Marleau on the New York Islanders?

It could’ve happened if the Islanders had their way, according to their then-assistant general manager Mike Santos.

Going into the 1997 Draft, the San Jose Sharks had the No. 2 pick, while the Islanders had the No. 4 and 5 selections.

Joe Thornton and Marleau were the consensus one-two picks that year.

“We were trying to find a way to move around to see if we could somehow snag Marleau,” Santos revealed on a recent episode of the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast. “We couldn’t get it done. I’m sure we were one of many teams to try to get into that spot.

The Boston Bruins took Thornton No. 1, the San Jose Sharks followed with Marleau, the Los Angeles Kings selected Olli Jokinen, and the Islanders went with Roberto Luongo and Eric Brewer.

Santos didn’t remember the details of what then-New York GM Mike Milbury offered the Sharks, but it would’ve made sense for them to offer at least one of their two top-five picks.

So could the San Jose Sharks have ended up with Roberto Luongo?

Like Marleau, Luongo enjoyed a Hall of Fame career. It’s just a matter of time for the recently-retired Marleau, while Luongo was inducted in 2022.

The goaltender finished his career second in NHL history with 1,044 games and fourth in wins with 489. Meanwhile, Marleau is the NHL’s All-Time Games Played leader with 1,779 games, adding 566 goals on top of that.

Then-San Jose Sharks chief scout Ray Payne, however, told San Jose Hockey Now in 2020 that selecting Luongo that high probably wasn’t in the cards: “We were never big on drafting goalies early. We had a lot of guys on our staff who were ex-goaltenders. Cap Raeder, Warren Strelow, Wayne Thomas. Their feeling, and it permeated throughout the staff, was we’re not going to take a goalie high. It’s just too much of a risk.”

If Not Thornton or Marleau, Who Would Sharks Have Picked in 1997 Draft?

That attitude has actually held true throughout franchise history. The Sharks are the only still-active organization, save for recent expansion sides Vegas and Seattle, that’s never drafted a goalie in the first or second round.

Their highest goaltender pick is Terry Friesen, No. 55 in the third round of the 1996 Draft.

Sharks Have Been Leading on This Current Draft Trend Since ’90s

“We didn’t need a goaltender at that particular point of time,” Payne said of Luongo.

Along with Friesen, San Jose had future stars Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff waiting in the wings.

So if not Luongo, who might the Sharks have targeted if they had either New York’s No. 4 or 5 selection?

Payne revealed the Sharks’ hand, when asked who San Jose would’ve picked, hypothetically, at No. 3 in the 1997 Draft. It wouldn’t have been Jokinen, who Payne noted had a reputation for being a “party boy”.

“It probably would’ve been Eric Brewer or Sergei Samsonov,” Payne said.

Brewer enjoyed a long NHL career as a top-four defenseman, making 1,009 appearances.

Samsonov, who fell to No. 8 to the Bruins, won the 1998 Calder Trophy and was a top-six winger for the better part of a decade.

Brewer and Samsonov had solid careers, but if not Luongo, there’s no doubt that the San Jose Sharks are happy that they kept the second-overall pick and selected Marleau.

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